Antioxidant Quinoa Salad

When you watch as many cooking shows as I do, you tend to become familiar with the standard jargon that gets tossed around during the course of a given episode. There’s the “make sure to wash your hands very well after handling chicken!!” That one’s an oldy but a goodie. Then there’s the obligatory “al dente” definition — “it means ‘to the teeth!'” — that follows every time you’re told how to cook your pasta. And of course there’s the endless oggling of a dish in its final moments of preparation, which can take many forms but usually involves something to the effect of, “now would you look at how gorgeous this is?” The last of these is perhaps the most familiar and pervasive, often preceding every end-of-show sendoff. This is understandable, considering appearance is an important aspect of selling a dish. After all, no one cares if something is “healthful,” “super easy,” or even “delish” if it’s going to scare their dinner guests away.

Despite this, I have to say that I’m not usually one to oggle my dishes. This is in large part because I’m usually so hungry and impatient by the time it’s ready that I tend to dig in the moment I get a chance, not allowing myself to take it all in. It’s only until I’m uploading my photos hours later that I appreciate the aesthetic aspects — or lack thereof — of a particular dish. But tonight was different. As I tossed the speckled red-pink pomagranates with the vibrant green parsley against a backdrop of fluffy quinoa, I was sort of mesmerized by the beauty of it all. So I took a moment just to stare.

Of course, it’s especially nice knowing that “beauty” here might as well be synonymous with “healthy.” With each contrast of color is a different vitamin, nutrient and disease-fighting property. Pomagranates are said to be the highest in antioxidants of all natural foods. They are also believed to prevent plaque buildup in the arteries. Cranberries are rich with antioxidants as well — even more so in dried form, as antioxidants are more concentrated in dried fruit. Then there’s parsley. It’s one of my favorite all-around ingredients, and boasts a laundry list of health properties. It can boost immunity, cleanse the kidneys, is a great source of iron and vitamin C, and can even be used as a digestive aid. And of course, it’s high in antioxidants. Add vitamin and antioxidant-rich bell pepper and the protein and fiber of quinoa, and this is one healthy salad.

Since quinoa is a “whole” protein, I like to eat this as a meal, but this would also make a great side dish or light lunch option with soup. I think you’ll really enjoy this salad. Feel free to experiment with your own antioxidant-rich additions as well.

Antioxidant Quinoa Salad:

Serves: 2-3 as a main course, 4-6 as a side

Look for pomegranates that are red on the outside and which feel heavy for their size. These will yield the best seeds. This salad can be served either warm, room temperature or chilled — all good! I like beige quinoa for this dish, as red tends to have a more prominent, nuttier flavor which I thought would overpower the other ingredients.

1 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed well and drained

1/2 cup pomagranate seeds

1/3 cup dried cranberries

1/4 cup red onion, finely diced

1/2 large green bell pepper, diced (about 1/2 cup)

1 cup curly parsely, finely chopped

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/4 cup fresh lime juice (from about 1 1/2 limes)

generous pinch of salt, plus more to taste

Directions:

1. Cook quinoa according to package directions.

2. Meanwhile, whisk together olive oil and lime juice. When quinoa has cooked, toss with remaining ingredients. Add dressing and salt and toss until dressing is absorbed. Taste and add additional salt to taste.

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Red Breakfast Quinoa

While health magazines and nutrition gurus will tell you that fiber-rich breakfasts like oatmeal are the key to keeping us full until lunchtime, it’s a rare circumstance with anybreakfast that I last beyond 10 a.m. without feeling lightheaded and woozy, needing a snack. It’s true that my low blood sugar plays an unwelcome role in this phenomenon. Gennaro can attest to this. He’s long been accustomed to the wrath of Beth without her snacks, and has since initiated a campaign to get me to carry them in my purse at all times, lest “Mama Beast” (an extension of the “Mama B” nickname I acquired when I became a mama to Woodley) rears her ugly head.

So while breakfast may, in fact,  be the most important meal of the day, it’s especially a priority for me. It sets the tone for the rest of my day. If I fail to remember Gennaro’s words of warning and find myself trapped — in a doctor’s office, a classroom — without snacks and between meals, a really good breakfast is all the reinforcement I have to back me up. Thus began my self-initiated challenge to find the breakfast that fills me up the longest before my next meal. For awhile, these breakfasts were savory, as fruit tends to spike my blood sugar in the morning, only catalyzing the inevitable late-morning crash (on that note, scrambled tofu with broccoli, tamari and brown rice was a great, make-ahead-and-heat-up option). But I soon longed for the idea of breakfast. I needed something breakfasty to go with my morning cup of coffee (also probably not a great help with the crash thing…but I’m working on that). Fried rice wasn’t doing it for me anymore.

When my brother and I were young, my dad had breakfast duty. This was nice for me, not only for the fact that my dad was a surprisingly decent breakfast-maker, but also because he was sport enough to play “talking Cinderella”  many mornings (for those curious, “talking Cinderella” was a modified version of  Cinderella, in which I was Cinderella and my dad — lucky him — got to be one of the evil stepsisters. The only difference was that we talked it all out, so as not to keep my dad from his breakfast duties). One of the most memorable items in the breakfast rotation was cream of wheat, especially once we discovered the chocolate stuff. Probably loaded with artificial flavors and tons of sweetener (this likely before my mom caught wind of what was on the label), my brother and I were too young to care and too mesmerized with the process of its creation that we seldom wanted anything else.  That, and the fact that we were — gasp! — actually allowed chocolate at breakfast.

For some reason this breakfast quinoa reminds me of cream of wheat. Maybe it’s the solid-absorbs-liquid parallel that so captivated me many years ago. Maybe it’s the creamy, sometimes grainy texture of the cream of wheat that I’m reminded of now. So, yes, there’s the nostalgia element here (I’m getting a lot of that lately, huh?). But — BONUS! — this breakfast quinoa meets my personal requirements for a balanced breakfast: fiber, nutrients, protein and more protein (almond butter and quinoa being two great protein sources). I’ve officially declared this my go-to for fending off Mama Beast days.

Breakfast Quinoa:

The recipe below is for single-serving portions. Simply adjust — double, triple, whatever — according to servings needed. I like this with just a dash of cinnamon, but it would be great with some dried fruit or fresh banana as well. You could definitely substitute regular quinoa for the red, but I prefer red here for its subtle nuttiness and crunchier texture.

1/3 cup dry red quinoa, rinsed well

2/3 cup water

1/3 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk (regular will work as well)

1 tablespoon creamy roasted almond butter

12-15 drops NuNaturals liquid vanilla stevia

a dash of cinnamon

Directions:

1. Add quinoa and water to a small pot. Cover and bring to a boil. Boil until quinoa has absorbed all of the liquid (keep an eye on it to make sure it doesn’t burn).

2. When quinoa has absorbed the liquid, add almond milk and bring to a simmer. Simmer until about half of the milk has been absorbed. Remove from heat and stir in almond butter until distributed throughout. Add stevia and adjust sweetness according to taste. Sprinkle with a bit of cinnamon and serve.

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Tabbouleh

Not only have I been really into fresh mint lately (see: mint chocolate chip ice cream), but I’ve also been on a bit of a parsley kick. I’ve always loved tabbouleh, but I’ve recently been enjoying parsely in cole slaw and romaine salads. To me, it’s a wonderfully fresh and detoxifying ingredient. Plus, it’s rumored to get rid of the “bloat.” I tend to buy into this rumor based on personal experience: my high school prom. Two days before, and I couldn’t fit into my dress. It wouldn’t zip. My mom’s good friend (and go-to resource for girlie issues such as these) suggested I drink some parsley tea. A few hours later, I was in my dress with no problem. Now, on the days I’m feeling like I’ve overdone it on the salty foods, I try to eat some parsley.

One healthy ingredient that I haven’t always been a fan of is celery. Maybe it’s the stringiness, or the fact that I’m just not in love with the taste, but for whatever reason, I’ve never gotten into celery. Still, every time I hear about all of its surprising health benefits, I can’t help but thinking that I’ll find some way to enjoy it. This tabbouleh actually turned out to be one of those ways. I think that it’s chopped small enough to add a nice crunch without its signature stringiness. It also lends a nice bit of flavor here.

With red pepper and celery and no tomato or bulghur wheat, this is not your traditional Middle Eastern tabbouleh. But if you’re willing to look past the authenticity issues, I think you’ll enjoy this healthy, detoxifying, gluten-free version as much as I did. Also, unlike most salads, this is one that gets better the longer it’s in your refrigerator. So feel free to make it in advance.

Tabbouleh:

1/3 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed and cooked according to package directions

1 bunch parsley, finely chopped

1/4 cup fresh mint, finely chopped

1 red bell pepper, diced

2 stalks celery, diced

2 scallions, finely chopped (green ends topped off)

1 lemon, juiced

1 lime, juiced

3 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 teaspoon sea salt, plus more to taste

Directions:

1. In a large bowl, mix quinoa, parsley, mint, celery, bell pepper, and scallion.

2. In a smaller bowl, whisk together lemon juice, lime juice, olive oil and sea salt.

3. Add dressing to salad and mix. Add salt to taste.

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Crispy Roasted Chickpeas over Quinoa

This recipe was a bit of an accident, as I had not planned on making anything to post tonight, but was looking, rather, to make a quick dinner out of a few pantry items. I had chickpeas on hand for making Happy Herbivore’s chickpea tacos, which I tried last week and was craving again. But not feeling like dirtying up any dishes to make guacamole (which is a must with tacos in my book), I thought I’d just whip up some quinoa and throw the crispy, roasted chickpeas over that. If you’re looking for a quick and inexpensive gluten-free, vegan recipe, be sure to give this one a try (or try out Happy Herbivore’s tacos).

Tonight I also discovered a new way to prepare quinoa. That discovery happened by accident as well. Actually, it was also the result of my not wanting to dirty any additional dishes (see, laziness can pay off sometimes), so instead of cooking the quinoa in a separate saucepan before transferring it to another pan to saute, I simply sauteed a cup of rinsed quinoa on high in equal parts olive and sesame oil (about a teaspoon each, plus more as needed) until it was no longer wet in a large saute pan. Then I added a cup and a half of water, covered, and cooked until the water was absorbed (about 5 minutes). Then I grated in a large clove of garlic and added a drizzle of wheat-free tamari (I’d guess anywhere from a few teaspoons to a tablespoon). I sauteed until the quinoa was dry and crispy. Then I added a handful of baby spinach, stirred, and removed from the heat. The quinoa was crisp and light and flavorful. With the addition of crispy chickpeas, it was almost the perfect dish (and almost — just almost – as good as Charlie’s stir-fried quinoa creation).

Below is my version of the roasted chickpeas inspired by the recipe from Happy Herbivore, which is a new favorite site thanks to Twitter, which I recently joined and not sure what I did without. I used to think Twitter was the reincarnation of 8th grade AIM updates about one’s daily routine. Going to the store. Eating dinner now. So excited it’s Friday. Well, it’s that in part, but so much more. I’ve discovered so many great new food bloggers just through twittering, and it’s a great resource for a constant stream of information updates. I must admit, that after much reluctance, I’m now hooked.

Crispy Roasted Chickpeas:

1 14-oz. can chickpeas, drained, rinsed and patted dry

2 teaspoons wheat-free tamari

1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lime juice

2 teaspoons sesame oil

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon coriander

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1 teaspoon chili powder

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon onion powder

1/4 teaspoon cayenne (optional)

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 425.

2. Whisk together all ingredients except chickpeas in a medium-sized bowl. Add chickpeas and toss until coated. Turn out onto a flat baking sheet and bake in preheated oven until browned and slightly crisp, about 25-30 minutes, tossing once halfway through.

3. Serve chickpeas over quinoa (see above), rice or inside a crispy corn tortilla with lettuce and guacamole. Or simply let cool and eat as a snack.Yum!

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Quinoa, Part II

quinoa risottoQuinoa week continues here with a risotto recipe from my friend Liz. Now, I was initially a little nervous about making this recipe, as Liz’s specific request was not only that I try it but that I improve on the one she’s been making. This was daunting because Liz comes from a large Italian family that knows how to cook. She used to come back to college (I lived no more than a hallway-down from her for 4 years of college, from the dorms to our very “college” off-campus housing) from weekends at home with tuperware containers-full of homemade Italian food, so I know this first-hand. I know this because I’ve been schooled by Liz (many years ago, so perhaps she doesn’t remember) on the proper pronunciation of gnocci. I also trust Liz’s palate because she introduced me to one of my favorite restaurants here in the city, Cafe Habana. So it’s one thing to try and improve on the recipe of an amateur, and quite another to improve on risotto for an Italian girl that has good cooks in the family and a great palate. Talk about pressure!

I tried my best. I think my new motto is: when in doubt, do what Ina (Garten — do we really need a last name here, though?) would do. Actually, that might have always been my motto. No, I didn’t add butter. I added lemon zest, which Ina claims to be the secret ingredient in her risotto. I also tried something I’ve never tried before: fake parmesan cheese. Sorry, Liz! I’m not sure your family would disown you if you ever bought such a thing, so I’ll give you a pass and let you use the real stuff here if you wish. But for the rest of you vegans, dairy-free or just plain adventurous folk, I’m somewhat relieved to report that it wasn’t half bad! Actually, I sort of shamefully enjoyed it. This might render me completely blacklisted from the foodie world, but I’m gonna own it anyways. Vegan parmesan is not as scary as you might think. Parma is a tasty option with only three ingredients: walnuts, nutritional yeast and celtic sea salt. I learned about that one from another one of my Vegan at Heart missions (well, with food tips nearly daily, it’s really hard not to learn a thing or two that I can pass on to all of you).

I also used wine in this recipe, which, in my opinion, is a bit obligatory in the risotto department. Wine is one of those things I innocently assumed was just grapes + a little fermentation + a bottle = wine. Like many things in life, it’s actually a bit more complicated than that. For example, yeast is used in the fermentation process. Sometimes animal products are used as well. Add barrels that might be made of oak and sealed with wheat paste. Luckily, a simple Google search informed me that most of the strains of yeast are killed off by the time wine gets to your glass — or in your risotto. I don’t know what this means if you’re sensitive to brewer’s yeast (which I am), but I find that I can tolerate wine and not beer (even the wheat-free kind, so it’s not the wheat), so I’d suggest  you let your body or your doctor be your guide on that one. I have no idea whether nutritional yeast falls under the brewer’s yeast sensitivity, either, and no Google search seems to turn up a definitive answer, unfortunately. I think I’ll stick to the “let your body be your guide” test for that, as imprecise as that test can sometimes be (i.e. I don’t necessarily recommend it for everyone. This might be where the “I am not a doctor” disclaimer might come in handy. I’m not; I was an English major in college who barely scraped by in biology). A Google search did turn up this list of vegan wine and this one for gluten-free wines.

Oh, and I lied. I said I was going to make this with asparagus, but I saw baby arugula at the market and tried that instead. I loved it, so baby arugula it is.

Serves: 2 if you live with my fiance; 3-4, I’m guessing, in any other home

Quinoa Risotto:

1 1/2 cups uncooked quinoa, well rinsed and drained

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 yellow onion, minced

3 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 cup dry white wine

3 cups vegetable broth

3 shiitake mushrooms, sliced

zest of one lemon

1/3 cup Italian flat-leaf parsley, minced

2 tablespoons parmesan substitute or nutritional yeast

2 teaspoons wheat-free tamari or 1 teaspoon Bragg’s liquid aminos

1 cup baby arugula

Directions:

1. In a small saucepan, bring vegetable broth to a simmer over medium heat.

2. In a large pan or Dutch Oven, saute onion and garlic in oil over medium-high until soft and transluscent, about 3 minutes. Add in quinoa and stir to coat with oil. Add wine and simmer until mostly absorbed, stirring occassionally.

3. In 1/2 cup increments, add warm vegetable broth to quinoa and simmer until most of the liquid is absorbed, stirring occassionally. Repeat. After you have added 2 cups of broth, stir in shiitakes. After you have added 2 1/2 cups of broth, remove quinoa from heat and stir in remaining ingredients, including the last 1/2 cup of broth. Quinoa will absorb some of the liquid still, so stir and let absorb until desired consistency is reached. Taste for flavor and add a few more drops tamari, liquid aminos or a bit more parmesan substitute if desired.

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Quinoa, Part I

Last week, my good friend Liz (and by good friend, I mean she’s standing up in my wedding) asked me to improve on a quinoa risotto recipe that she had at a restaurant and has been trying to recreate at home. The recipe sounded intriguing; quinoa given the risotto treatment. A very cool idea, indeed. So I bought quinoa in bulk — large, Costo-esque packages. I made the risotto last week. Then I made it again on Sunday. And I’m going to make it one more time before posting it, next time perhaps with asparagus, since I’ve been thinking that would be a nice touch for spring.

Then Charlie, a good family friend (and by good family friend, I mean he and his wife are singing in my wedding) shared with me his “fried quinoa” creation — a quinoa dish that’s essentially given the fried rice treatment. He uses red quinoa, which I imagine would work quite nicely here, and adds it cooked to fried chickpeas and mushrooms until it’s crisped up a bit. So when I came home from class last night tired, hungry and lacking in the fresh produce department, I grabbed the quinoa I had left over from my risotto, a can of chickpeas, some mushrooms from the fridge, and some fresh basil I happened to have on hand for a pasta dish I knew wasn’t going to happen. Within minutes — maybe 15 or so — I had a delicious dinner. Charlie, you came through big for me with this one. I hope I did your dish justice here.

Then there was yesterday’s Vegan at Heart mission: to read about quinoa (see, these missions are really painlessly easy). The final send-off? “Impress someone with your knowledge of quinoa this week.” Well, I don’t know if I’m going to impress you folks with my knowledge this week, though I’m thinking I might have a chance at impressing you with Liz and Charlie’s quite impressive quinoa dishes.

Has the universe been telling me to post some quinoa recipes, or what?

This one’s simple and easy, but thouroughly delicious. Try red quinoa, as Charlie uses, a variety of mushrooms, or other vegetables. I used basil, since I had it on hand, but I imagine other herbs and spices might be just as nice — or you could use none at all. I have a feeling this is one of those dishes that could be great with a million and one variations.

Tip: cook quinoa in vegetable broth instead of water.

Fried Quinoa:

1 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed and cooked according to package directions

1 can chickpeas, drained, rinsed and patted dry

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/4 teaspoon cumin

1-2 cloves garlic, minced

3 shiitake mushrooms, sliced thin

1 bunch fresh basil, sliced into thin ribbons

Salt to taste

Directions:

1. Toss chickpeas with olive oil and cumin and add to a hot skillet or stir-fry pan. Toss for a few minutes (2-3) over high heat, or until browned on the outside. Add mushrooms and garlic and cook until most of the oil is absorbed and mushrooms are slightly soft.

2. Add cooked quinoa and toss with the other ingredients until quinoa is dry and begins to get crisp as it comes off the bottom of the pan. Remove from heat and toss in fresh basil, plus enough salt to taste (I used about 1/4 teaspoon).

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Mexican Style Quinoa Salad

 A while ago, my cousin made a delicious quinoa salad and this is a take on that. It’s a good recipe to play around with, as ingredients can be added and taken away without changing the integrity of the dish. Try adding grilled zucchini or asparagus, roasted red pepper, or diced tofu. I’d also be interested to know how this one tastes with the addition of fresh mint.

This is a really simple and healthy lunch or dinner. It’s also great as a side or served at a party. Thanks, Kelly, for the idea!

Ingredients:

3/4 cup uncooked quinoa

1 cup canned corn, drained

1 15-oz. can black beans, drained

1 jalapeno, diced

1/2 cup black olives, sliced

1 cup grape tomatoes, halved

1 small red onion, finely diced

3 tablespoons lime juice

1 tablespoon cider vinegar

2 tablespoons canola oil

1/2 teaspoon chile powder

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)

1 teaspoon cumin

1/8 teaspoon coriander

1 1/2 teaspoons salt, or more to taste

1 avocado sliced

Directions:

1. Cook quinoa according to package directions.

2. Meanwhile, in a large salad bowl, toss corn, black beans, jalapeno, olives, grape tomatoes, and red onion. In a small bowl, whisk lime juice, cider vinegar, canola oil, chile powder, cayenne pepper, cumin and salt.

3. When quinoa has cooked, add to the salad mixture. Add the dressing and toss. Top with sliced avocado immediately before serving.

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Quinoa Stuffed Poblanos

For a really long time, I was hesitant to prepare stuffed poblanos for the sheer dread of having to go through the process of charring, peeling and seeding each and every one. How tedious! Imagine my excitement, then, when I discovered a large can of already prepared poblanos at Whole Foods one day. One problem: they tasted awful. It was immediately clear that the earthy, smoky poblano was just not meant to be canned. How shameful I am to admit I tried to take such an amateurish shortcut! The moral of the story is take the extra 15-20 minutes to prepare the poblanos from scratch. I have also stuffed them without the added steps, but they are much more easily digested and enjoyed after being roasted and peeled.

These stuffed poblanos are tasty, vegan, and packed with fiber, vitamins and minerals. You could prepare them in advance and refrigerate. Bake later for a dinner party that will unite the health-conscious with the taste-conscious. I especially love the interplay between the hot, smoky chipotle and the sweet and surprising pumpkin.

If you’re wondering what to do with the extra canned pumpkin you will have lying around after making this, here are a few ideas: blend with extra firm silken tofu, agave, cinnamon and nutmeg for a tasty pumpkin mousse; freeze in a zipper bag for later use; or, as Woodley would suggest, store it in the refrigerator for a few days and give to your dog with meals. It helps their digestion, and my — albeit very unpicky — dog loves it.

Ingredients:

2 teaspoons olive oil

4 poblano peppers

1 cup cooked quinoa

2/3 cup corn kernels (fresh if possible)

2/3 cup canned black beans, drained and rinsed

1/4 cup Spanish olives, sliced

1/3 cup canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix)

 2 tablespoons adobo sauce from canned chipotle in adobo, PLUS 1 chipotle pepper, minced (Casa Fiesta brand contains no added sugar)

3/4 teaspoon salt

Mashed avocado with lime juice and salt (optional)

Directions:

1. Rub poblanos in olive oil and broil in baking dish or flat baking sheet for a little over ten minutes, turning occasionally to char all sides evenly. Once poblanos have charred, place in a large dish or bowl and cover with cellophane to steam. Set aside.

2. Set oven to 350.

3. Prepare filling by mixing remaining ingredients, minus the optional avocado mixture. Taste a little and adjust salt to taste. You may also add more adobo sauce or chipotle if you like more spiciness. Keep in mind that the poblanos will add some spice as well. Make sure pumpkin is well combined. Set aside.

4. Remove cellophane and rub poblanos to remove skin. It’s o.k. to leave a little on, but the majority of the skin should be removed. Using a sharp knife, make a slit down the length of the poblano on one side. Using a spoon, gently remove seeds from inside. Generously stuff poblanos with quinoa mixture. Bake for about 10 minutes to heat through. Serve alongside avocado mashed with a little salt and lime juice, if desired.

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